Chris Cunningham Makes Work for his 12-Year-Old Self

Published July 23, 2012

It’s not often that you walk into an art exhibition and feel like you’ve ended up in a music video (or rather, not often enough). Such is the case, however, at Chris Cunningham’s Jaqapparatus Part I, a multi-media project that mixes live performance, music, robots, lasers, and a sculpture to create a surreal, all-encompassing environment. It was recently staged at a new Audi showroom in central London. “The technology is pretty basic, but it’s a very complicated choreography,” explained Cunningham of the work, which looks something like the mating dance of a pair of robots in a dark nightclub. The stars, perhaps, of a Katy Perry video. “Every aspect of the scene has a sound. Each sound is arranged musically. I wanted to create a little world using my own language.”

Best known for his music videos for Bjork and Aphex Twin, Cunningham first came up with the idea for Jaqapparatus ten years ago, but was not able to fund the complicated project until recently, when he partnered with Audi. “It was the kind of thing that didn’t fit anywhere,” he said. “I’ve been working on it as a hobby.”

The idea originally revolved around a single character who does not appear in the current installation, but whom Cunningham plans on introducing as the project expands.  “The character is sort of like a foreman,” he explained. “He’s not in this version because I didn’t have time to get him worked out. This installation is almost like a background of his universe.”

Cunningham, who imagines the installation as a kind of animation, cites various influences including African art, industrial design, animatronics, and pre-Raphaelite painting. “I’m interested in so many things,” he said. “It sounds weird, but the work is a disparate mix of all of them.” Vehemently refuting the idea that Jaqapparatus is inspired solely by science fiction, Cunningham nevertheless admits that it appeals to his inner nerd. “This work is definitely one that my 12-year-old self would have loved,” he said.